Art Dice and the Creative Confidence Book

art dice and creative confidence

book creative confidence

Do you have Creative Confidence?

Do you think that some people are just born more creative, or do you believe that we can learn to become more creative? In the newly released creativity and innovation-boosting book, Creative Confidence, authors David and Tom Kelley not only explain that creative super-powers lie within each of us, but they go on to share actionable tools for increasing our abilities to innovate.

Stanford University’s K-12 Lab Network recently invited me to lead a hands-on maker workshop as part of the Creative Confidence book launch party for IDEO founder, David Kelley. If you’re an educator who’s interested in Design Thinking, I promise that you’ll lose hours digging into the d. School’s K-12 Lab and the K-12 wiki.

For the hour that led up to the highly anticipated panel led by David Kelley, we set up a fun creativity-booster with Art Dice in a room just off the main stage.

creative confidence d school

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may recognize this game as Art Dice. If you’re new-ish to Tinkerlab, here’s the original post.

Art Dice is a fun prompt/tool/game for creating randomly generated art. Every flip of the dice becomes an opportunity to explore art vocabulary, drawing skills, color recognition, and shape identification. With a few changes, these dice could also used to chase away writer’s or artist’s block: Simply roll the dice and draw or write about what pops up. Combine a few dice together and rise to the challenge of combining disparate ideas into a cohesive whole.

art dice setup tinkerlab

Since I needed a few sets of dice, and didn’t have the time to paint six sets of wooden dice (as I did with our original sets), I made paper templates and printed the dice onto heavy card stock. They’re bigger than our original dice, but the scale also makes them playful and visually arresting.

How to Play Art Dice: Round One

The rules: Roll one die. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

We invited our players to roll the line die. The line die includes things like dots, straight lines, zig-zag lines, and a spiral.

With the die rolled, they chose a mark-making tool and had two minutes to interpret the line on their paper. One of the most outstanding parts of this exercise, from an observer’s point of view, is to see the variety of interpretations. 

art dice and creative confidence

Art Dice: Round Two

The rules: Roll two dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the next round, we rolled the line die and the shape die. Again, participants had two minutes to interpret these images in whatever way they desired.

art dice d school playing

Art Dice: Round Three

The rules: Roll four dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the last round we invited the players to throw four dice: shape, line, color, and mood. The mood dice included words like curious, excited, and angry. 

From the four tossed dice, players could choose two, three, or four of the dice to work with and create a final composition in two minutes. You can see the variety of interpretations of the prompt in this last photo.

art dice d school group

What we learned

After this quick round of drawing, I asked everyone to share their thoughts on this experience. Here are some of the takeaways:

  1. Creative freedom to experiment: There was no wrong or right way to do this exercise, which offered many participants creative freedom to experiment.
  2. Work did not have to be perfect: The short drawing period (just two minutes) signaled to some participants that their work did not have to be perfect, and gave them leeway to experiment and not feel the need to get it “just right.”
  3. Good for team-building: A few participants suggested that this activity could be a powerful way to open up a team-building event.
  4. Prompts work differently for everyone: Some people felt more creative leeway when they only had one die to work with, while others preferred the challenge of working with multiple dice. This reminded me of how differently our brains work, and how prompts like this are not one-size-fits all.

Art Dice and Creative Confidence

In Creative Confidence, the authors write,

creative confidence quote

I would venture to say that creative prompts like Art Dice encourage mistake-making in a safe environment. The stakes are low, and mistakes hold the capacity to lead to new ideas.

When we talked about how Art Dice could be used as a team-building exercise, I kept thinking about how prompts like art dice have the capacity to break down cultural norms and allow us to experience our own unlimited potential.

One interpretation is not necessarily better than another, and one person’s unique interpretation can inspire another person’s way of thinking.

What do you think? Would you like to have a set of art dice to experiment with?

You can learn more about Creative Confidence or order a copy today.

A Freebie and a Giveaway!

If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a treat. I was gifted an extra copy of Creative Confidence, and I’d like to share it with one of my readers.

In addition, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about where the Art Dice can be purchased. In response to that, and as a thank you for putting experimentation, tinkering, and hands-on making first, we’d like to offer our loyal readers a free download of our Art Dice, exactly like the ones shared in this post.

These opportunities are only offered to our fabulous newsletter subscribers.

Details will be sent in our next newsletter, so subscribe today and stay tuned for more details! This is a limited time offer, so don’t delay!


Note: This post contains affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we love and/or that we think you’ll find useful.

 

Failure is Not Trying

failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

- Henry Ford

What do you think about failure? Do you encourage your child to make mistakes? Do you celebrate attempts to try new things? Do you share your own failed attempts freely with your child?

failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently

Last night was Back to School Night at my new kindergartener’s school. The principal gave a motivating talk about the importance of extending the school’s core values into our children’s home lives as a way to reinforce the home-school connection.

At the end of the presentation the principal talked about failure, and how we should encourage our children to work hard to achieve their ideas and goals in spite of their lack of knowledge. If they don’t know how to do something, they shouldn’t see this as a limitation but as an opportunity to fail forward as they learn through the process of trying.

As you can imagine, I LOVED this talk and felt so grateful that my daughter landed in an environment with such entrepreneurial spirit at its heart.

At the end of the talk, they shared a link to an interview with the youngest female self-made billionaire, Sarah Blakely (founder of Spanx), who discussed her journey with ABC News. Whatever you might think of Spanx (I don’t own any myself), you’ll appreciate how her father redefined the word failure for her and her brother. 

“We would sit around the dining room table at night and he would say, ‘OK, kids, what did you fail at today?’ I would say, ‘Dad, I tried out for this sport and I was horrible,’ and he would say ‘way to go,’ and high five me. And it completely reset my definition of failure. So, for my brother and me, failure is not trying.”

Sadly, I can’t embed the video here, but you can watch it here. And if you find her story motivating, here’s a link to Sarah Blakely on YouTube. 

Parents and Teachers as Co-Learners

It’s so important to model our own failures to our children. If children don’t see us struggle as we try new things, and in turn find ways to overcome setbacks, how can we ever expect them to do the same?

When was the last time you celebrated a failure with a child? Not too long ago I baked a new recipe with my kids. We thought we could alter the recipe to use up some of our pantry ingredients and talked about experimentation as we went along. In end the recipe was a disaster, but it was a fantastic opportunity to discuss how we could do it differently next time. Some of the things that came up: follow the recipe more closely, take more time with fewer distractions, and don’t use so much pumpkin.

If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy this post on failure.

A question for you:

When was the last time you tried something new? Did you succeed on your first attempt? If not, what did you have to do in order to achieve your goal?

Bird Seed Sensory Box

Birdseed Sensory Box Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m always happy to have cheap, simple, educational, and entertaining activities for my kids, and I know a lot of teachers who feel the same way. How about you?

I learned this bird seed trick from one of my daughter’s first preschool teachers, and I’m happy to pass it along to you.

I LOVE cheap, simple, educational, and entertaining outdoor activities like this for my kids (great for toddlers and preschoolers).

Bird Seed Sensory Box

Step 1: Pour in the bird seed.

Tip #1: Do this outside. Bird seed will spill everywhere and you’ll be grateful that it’s not all over your carpet.

pouring bird seed sensory tableStep 2: Play

Simple, right?

Tip #2: If you have a lot squirrels in your area, cover your bird seed table at night to discourage those pesky foragers from finding their next meal in your bird seed oasis.

sensory table with bird seed scoopingTip #3: The bird seed lasts indefinitely, and when your child is done with it you can use it to, um, feed birds! Nothing is wasted here, friends!

sensory table with bird seed

If you like to keep your projects in a recipe box or binder, feel free to print this nifty card that has all the info in one easy-to-read place:

Bird Seed Sensory Box
 
Author:
Recipe type: Toddler and Preschool Sensory
Prep time:
Total time:
 
Set up a fun sensory experience that encourages hand-eye coordination and helps children explore measurement and volume.
Supplies
  • Bags of Bird Seed
  • High Wall Water Table or Under-the-bed storage box
  • Tools such as scoopers, spoons, and bowls
  • Access to natural materials such as flowers and twigs
Steps
  1. Fill a water table with bird seed. We used three 16 oz bags, but could have easily used more.
  2. Offer your child some tools to scoop and pour the seeds.
  3. Encourage your child to bring natural materials to the table and build fairy homes/ design seascapes/make natural patterns.

And if you like this activity, you can give it some love by clicking on a whole bunch of stars with a comment below. Thanks!

More sensory materials

Wheat Berries — like bird seed, just different.

Wet Paper — soak some paper and tear it up.

Water Beads — our second most popular post.

Cloud Dough — our most popular post!

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A question for you

What do you find is the most challenging thing about setting up sensory experiences for your child?

10 Ways to Have Creative Fun with your Kids this Summer

10 Ways to have Creative Fun with your kids this summer | Tinkerlab

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”   – Henry James, Author

10 ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer from Tinkerlab

Today is the last day of school for my kids before the start of summer.

Not only is summer a school-free time for many children, but it can also mean warm weather, long car trips, digging up lots of beach sand, and long empty hours to lollygag (my favorite pastime).

While we often think of creative activities for kids as easel painting or drawing, getting outdoors fills children with new ideas, an imaginative spirit, and a thirst for life that will give children fodder for their ideas and art making.

Here are ten simple ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer:

10 Ways to Have a Creative Summer with Kids | Tinkerlab

1. At the Beach. While many parents look forward to beach trips as an opportunity to relax while the kids play (me, me!!), you can take comfort in the fact that while children play they are filling their brains with the sensory experiences of playing with sand, architectural processes of building castles, and physics lessons in how waves and tides move. We love the beach as a spot for the creative adventures that always go along with tidepooling, and look forward to trying our hands at sandcasting with plaster of paris (via The Artful Parent).

DIY Travel Coloring Station | Modern Parents Messy Kids

2. During Long Car Trips. Are you dreading planning a long car trip this summer? While DVD’s do wonders for keeping backseat bickering at bay, hands-on activities not only keep the mind active, but they can encourage long, uninterrupted spells of creativity as well.

To keep everyone’s mind occupied and on the same page, you’ll enjoy this awesome list from MPMK of audio books that the whole family can enjoy.

MPMK also shares the brilliant idea of making a DIY Car traveling station (photo, above). It’s magnetized so that materials won’t fly all over the car. Once you see this you won’t want to go back to your old methods.

Related to that, The Imagination Tree shares this how you can repurpose a simple plastic tray into a drawing station with window crayons with this clever DIY Portable art board.

Backyard Camping | Modern Parents Messy Kids

3. At the Campground. Getting outdoors and taking adventures do wonders for eliciting creative thinking. If you don’t have any grand plans for camping this summer, not to worry because you can always pitch a Tent in the backyard and make sun-baked s’mores (via Kids Stuff World) on a hot day with creature comforts not too far away. Mmm.

Now, if you can actually manage to pack up all your gear and head out to the woods, This Mama Makes Stuff offers some sage advice on how to make the most of camping with kids. The Creative Homemaker shares a Happy Camper Scavenger Hunt  (with a free printable that’s super cute) that will encourage children to look carefully at the world around them.

outdoor adventure

4. Around the Neighborhood. 

Speaking of scavenger hunts, you don’t have to go very far to find cool things to look at. Just walk out your front door with a camera and you’re ready to take a rainbow scavenger hunt or any other sort of scavenger hunt you can dream up.

geocaching

5. On the Hiking Trail.

And then we can always kick scavenger hunts up a notch!

Have you ever been geocaching? When geocaching was first introduced back in 2001, I was one of the first people to go out and buy a GPS. And my husband laughed at me. We planted one of the oldest caches in Southern California and then the first cache in Indonesia, and wouldn’t you know that they’re both still there!

Now geocaching is so easy and affordable with phone-based apps like the Geocaching App for the iPhone. This activity gets kids moving and encourages them think hard as they go back and forth between connecting coordinates with real-world landmarks. Not only that, but it’s fun for everyone in the family.

I can’t recommend it enough. Hmm, all this cache talk reminds me that it’s been ages since we’ve hit the trail. I’m adding this to our summer list!

climbing trees | tinkerlab

6. At the Park

Did you know that climbing trees can support creative thinking?

And then there’s the DIY Art Camp. If the weather is nice, why not invite your friends to join you for some art-making at the park? A couple summers ago we hosted a summer art afternoon for some friends. After a picnic (kids need fuel for the brains), we made sand paintings, paper bag crowns, and summer fireworks tote bags.  

Kiwi Crate

7. On the Lake

Put engineering skills to work by making your own boats like these from NurtureStore, and then test them in the lake, pool, or stream.

If you order a Kiwi Crate subscription, your July crate, Wonders of Water (see photo above), will come with all the supplies you’ll need to build your very own sailboats.

plant a garden with kids

8. In the Garden

Whether you have a large plot of land or a tiny patio, a short walk out your own front door into the fresh air gives children a low-threshold opportunity to get close to nature. You could try making your own Water Wall, planting a Garden with  the Kids, or making fairy gardens for your resident gnomes and keepers of pixie dust.

You could also try Kiwi Crate’s Fairy Fun Crate that comes with everything you need to make a magical wand, flower garland, and miniature fairies.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

9. On the Plane

Make a stack of these matching games (photo above) ahead of time.

If you’re traveling with a Lego-fan, and you have some skill with a sewing machine, this fabric tray Lego base is gorgeous and brilliant. Now if only there were a way to wrangle all those Legos on the plane!

Before you travel, your child may enjoy pretending that he or she is taking a trip or setting up a travel agency. This does wonders for building excitement (as seen in these pictures!).

If you subscribe to Kiwi Crate, in the month of August your kids will get Fun with Flight crate, filled with everything you’ll need to make retro-style rubber band rockets and paper gliders.

take an adventure trip

10. On an Adventure

Have you ever organized or gone on a mystery trip? They’re so fun, and can make even the most ordinary outing an adventure. On this recent trip to San Francisco, my husband wanted to introduce us to a Smitten, an ice cream shop that makes fresh ice cream, while you wait, with liquid nitrogen. Cool! (sorry I couldn’t help myself).

Adding to the cool factor, Smitten is located in a recycled shipping container in one of our favorite spots for people watching. Scott kept the whole thing to himself and then wowed my 4-year old with the adventure of watching her ice cream come to life.

To arrange a mystery trip, announce that you’re planning one, let your party know if they need to come prepared with any special clothes, snacks, or other creature comforts. And then hit the road!

get outdoors

On that note, enjoy the great outdoors and know that that spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for a child. 

I’ll leave you with this quote from playwright Henry Miller:

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 

Simple Matching Sticker Game

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

The human brain is an incredible pattern-matching machine. 

- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com

Matching objects or shapes is a skill that can help children in so many areas of their lives. The process of matching images and symbols is a precursor to matching combinations of letters to words, and this, of course, is a pre-reading skill. Matching is also useful for developing math skills, as understanding one-to-one correspondence teaches spatial reasoning and pattern recognition. 

Fun for travel

If you have any big trips planned, make a stack of these ahead of time and bring them along for a surprise game that might keep your child entertained through a flight’s take-off or during a long road trip.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Materials

  • Stickers: at least two of each kind
  • Plain paper
  • Maker, crayon, or pencil

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Set-up

Place the stickers in columns on two sides of the paper. Mix them up. Offer your child a pen or crayon and invite him to make lines that connect the matching images.

Matching Sticker Game Trader Joes

We always pick up stickers at Trader Joe’s — they’re perfect for this project!

Matching Sticker Game Hand Drawn

If you don’t have any stickers, not to worry! This project can be done with some simple sketches. I’ve done this with simple shapes (circle, square, triangle, etc.) and a variety of expressions (happy, sad, surprised).

More Ideas

  • For emergent readers: Make one column of stickers and then in the other column, write words that match the stickers.
  • Rather than use columns, draw pairs of shapes or attach stickers in random spots around the piece of paper.

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Time Travel with Popcorn Breakfast Cereal

How to make breakfast popcorn. via Tinkerlab

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”

W.C. Fields

What can get children excited to try something new? In my home it’s always food and grand experiments, and this project includes both. My kids, ages 2 and 4, were enthralled from start to finish. Maybe it will be the same for you?!

This project encourages experimentation and curiosity, while also teaching basic kitchen skills. 

How to make Popcorn Cereal: Teach your kids about colonial times with this special popcorn cereal recipe from Tinkerlab

On the recommendation of Deborah from Teach Preschool, we picked up a copy of The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola. Have you read it?

The book shares a little bit about the history of popcorn while teaching children how to make popcorn. And it’s all told through cheerful illustrations and a humorous storyline. My kids adore this book, along with the other books by author Tomie de Paola, and I appreciate that my girls are learning some cool facts while we enjoy a bit of reading. In case you’re not familiar, de Paola is also well known as the author of Strega Nona and The Art Lesson. Both super popular in our home.

How to make Popcorn Cereal

At one point in the story, the author writes, “The Colonists like it [popcorn] so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it.” Really?

The girls and I talked about this point for a few minutes and made some guesses about how this popcorn cereal might taste. And then we concluded that the only way to find out is…

…to make popcorn cereal for breakfast!

Popcorn Cereal
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Makes: 4
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
This recipe is inspired by Tomie DePaola's "The Popcorn Book." In the book, DePaola writes that "The Colonists like it (popcorn) so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it."
Supplies
  • ⅓ cup Popping Corn
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil or coconut oil
  • Milk
  • Honey
Steps
  1. Pour the oil and popping corn into a covered medium-sized pot, and place the pot over a medium-high heat.
  2. As the oil heats up, gently shake the pot so that the kernels cook evenly.
  3. Listen for the popping to go crazy, and continue shaking the pot until the pops only happen once ever three seconds.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the popcorn into a large serving bowl.
  5. To serve: Scoop a few spoonfuls into a cereal bowl, pour milk over the popped corn, and drizzle with honey.

How to make popcorn cereal

Whenever possible, I like to include my kids in the kitchen. Not only do we enjoy each other’s company, but cooking provides children with so many opportunities to learn through measuring, chopping, pouring, making educated guesses, and exploring volume, just to name a few.

And all of these things add up to building confidence both in the kitchen and in life. 

So, my kids measured the popcorn and the coconut oil, and I set it up on the stove.

Coconut oil can cook at a high temperature without burning, making it quite perfect for popping corn. The flavor is also divine. I recently joined Costco because they have an amazing selection of organic produce (no affiliation — I just like the place!), and I was surprised to find a big tub of organic coconut oil. Really, at Costco! I’ve also purchased it at Trader Joe’s, in case you’re in the market.

popcorn cereal tomie depaola

Once the corn was popped, we moseyed over to the breakfast table and gave our new recipe a try. The verdict? My kids LOVED it. They had seconds. And thirds. Not a spec of popcorn remained in the bowl. I can’t promise that your child will feel the same way about it, but I loved it too.

breakfast popcorn recipe

That’s my two-year old, on her second bowl of breakfast popcorn cereal!

How to make Colonial popcorn cereal

Yum, there’s even a bowl for me. As soon as the milk hits the popcorn, it gets nice and soggy just as you’d imagine.

how to make breakfast popcorn

After pouring some milk over our popcorn, we drizzled it with our favorite honey. So, so good. And then we proudly woke dad up and told him all about how we ate breakfast just like the colonists.

More Ideas

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 12.31.39 AM

  • Try the Corncob Popcorn Experiment: Cook a dried corncob in the microwave for some serious fun and  magic.
  • I just found this recipe for making Perfect Popcorn. I’ve never tried this technique before, but it makes a ton of sense. I’m totally trying this next time.
  • The Popcorn Book by Tomie DePaola
  • Other fun and educational things to do with popcorn and preschoolers on Teach Preschool
  • Are you a fan of Tomie de Paola? Guess what? He has his own website and it’s awesome!
  • If you live anywhere near Concord, NH, there’s a Tomie de Paola show going on through June 23, 2013. And…they have some of the original illustrations from his personal collection will be for sale!
  • Subscribe to Tinkerlab and you’ll be the first to know about new posts like the one you just read.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but I only share links to products that I love or that I think you’ll find useful. 

 

 

 

 

How to Make a Paper Airplane

paper airplane table set up

How to build paper airplanes

Have you ever made a paper airplane?

Did you learn how to make it from a book? Or maybe it was from the kid you shared a desk with in the third grade?

I fall into the second camp, learning from my friends in school. And for all of the hundreds of airplanes we made, not one of them truly soared the way I expected it to.

How to make a paper airplane

Well guess what? Today I’m sharing links to instructions for making paper airplanes that actually work, along with some ideas on how to help kids invent their own paper airplane designs.

So let’s get started with How to Make Paper Airplanes while building Design Skills…

paper airplane table set up

The Set-up

  • A few sets of instructions for making paper airplanes. You can get these from a book or download instructions from the internet. Our favorite was The Eagle, and we also tried High Glider and Fancy Flier. I found these by doing an image search for “Make Paper Airplane.”
  • Copy paper. Thinner paper is easier for children to fold.
  • Markers (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • A clear table

paper airplane instructions

Step One: Select a Design

We looked through all of our designs, picked one to start with, and my daughter and I sat down and followed the directions for the first airplane. If you’ve ever made origami, it’s the same approach. Most of the steps were easy enough for her four-year old hands and mind, but I had to help her with a few of the trickier folds.

If you find instructions that are too complicated for you, then skip them and find another plane to make.

Step Two: Teach someone else how to make a plane

Once we got the hang of it, N thought our six-year old neighbor would enjoy this project and we invited him over to join us. Either that or misery loves company.

We each started with another sheet of paper and while we folded, the kids educated each other on hamburger and hot dog folds. If you don’t have a neighbor to teach, teach a parent, babysitter, or grandparent. This step does wonders for building confidence.

paper airplane collection

Step Three: Iterate and Invent New Planes

Once that first airplane was complete, it was interesting to see where the kids took the project next. My daughter, a designer to the core, got busy decorating her plane with markers. Her friend, a tinkerer at heart who has a soft spot for Legos, began iterating on the design to improve it!

As we folded, he asked me questions like, “On your Eagle, how did you make the wing tips?” And then he proceeded to invent his own series of planes with pointed noses, flat noses, and wing tips.

When my daughter jumped in to help him, I commented that they were iterating. I actually said, “Hey you guys are iterating! Do you know that word? It means that you’re building a lot of planes to test new ideas and in order to figure out how to make it better. Can you say ‘iterate?'” And then of course, they obliged me.

I swear, the teacher thing will probably never leave my soul! Do you ever find yourself in that mode?

How to make a paper airplane | Tinkerlab

Step Four: Take it outdoors

They tested their planes in the house and once they amassed a small fleet of planes, I heard, “Let’s have an airplane show!!” So we took it outdoors to see what the planes could do.

Our friend guessed that the pointy-nosed planes would get more distance and said he was “amazed that the flat-nosed Eagle flew the best.”

PAPER AIRPLANES WITH TEXT

All in all, we spent a good hour on this project, and in the end not only did these kids have fun bonding and playing together, but they came away with some new design skills, tools for developing an innovator’s mindset, and good ol’ fine motor skill practice. 

A question for you…

Did you ever make paper airplanes as a child? Where did you learn how to make them? And how did they fly?

Inspired by Nature: Four Easy Steps to Follow a Child’s Interests

Inspired by Nature: wasp nest and bumble bee art

four easy steps to follow a child's interests

Do you have bees, birds, squirrels, deer, possum, or other creatures milling around your neighborhood?

It’s been wild animal week here at Casa Tinkerlab. We had two big discoveries at our house: a wasp nest in the eaves by our back door and a bird nest tucked into a hole along the siding of our house.

Sad story, we found the bird nest on the ground today, and all of the eggs were gone, probably discovered by a band of squirrels. My two-year old has been keeping a watchful eye on that nest and her first thought went to the mama bird when she said, “I think I hear the mama bird.”

Sure enough, we saw the mama nervously flying around some nearby bushes, and my heart sank for her. We carefully collected the nest and put it back into its spot in the event that the mom can use the nest again.

wasp nest 2

This wasp nest, on the other hand, was something that I was determined to remove myself. No sad feelings here. Sorry if you’re a wasp fan, but rest assured that no wasps were harmed in the process. Basically, I knocked it down (quite heroically) from it’s post with the end of a broom.

My kids were impressed.

The nice thing about finds like this (as long as no one gets hurt along the way) is the opportunity to learn from them.

Of course my kids had tons of questions about the wasp nest. At first we thought it may have been a growing beehive, so we started to search for information on bees, and then we learned that it was in fact a wasp nest. We also noticed it first came out of our eaves it was round and firm, and that it sank into itself after about half an hour on our dining table.

My four-year old loves to join me in web searches for information, so we started off with searches like “bee hive” and “how do bees build their hives?” The hives looked nothing like our little specimen, but by this point my daughter had an idea and she asked me to collect images of bees and related images that you might find in a garden.

bee drawing

I started a Photoshop file and dragged black and white images to a file, resized them to make them all fit to scale, and then printed the images on her request.  She then spent over an hour carefully coloring in and cutting out her images, and then creating the composition you see here. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a pond, but that’s no big deal when you have a market to fill in the blanks.

Projects like this encourage children to be curious, explore, and tap into their imaginations.

Directions

  1. Pay attention to what your child finds interesting in nature
  2. If you’re on a walk or hike, take along an field pack: a backpack to save collected objects, camera, magnifying glass, binoculars, pencil, and a notebook to draw or write in.
  3. Go the library to find books on the topic or search the internet for more information or videos. YouTube is often a great resource for investigations like this. Like this, ahem, educational video on how to remove a wasp nest.
  4. Make something that documents your new-found knowledge. How does your child want to interpret his new knowledge? Maybe it’s drawing, building, cooking, writing a story, talking about it, or taking photos?

 

Inspired by Nature: wasp nest and bumble bee art

More ways to discover nature and follow a child’s interests

Eight Ways to Follow a Child’s Curiosities

Finding Nature with Kids

Build a Nature Table

A Question for you…

What treasures, animals, and natural discoveries have you observed around your home?

Make a Simple Room Fort

How to build a simple kids fort with tape and a sheet

Hello Tinker-firends! I’ve been busy with some family business and book edits that are taking a toll on my late-night blogging time. How are you doing?

Until I get a better handle on these details I thought I’d share some quick snippets of tinkering inspiration from our days at home and out-and-about.

Today we have a down-and-dirty favorite from my husband, our resident fort builder. Scroll down to the bottom for links to hundreds of inspiring DIY kids fort ideas.

How to Build a Simple Room Fort for Kids

How to build a simple kids fort with tape and a sheet

What you need

  • Paper Tape
  • A large sheet
  • A doorway or arch to hang the sheet in

That’s it!

How to build a simple room fort with tape and a sheet

It’s not your traditional fort, but my kids loved playing with this new-to-them hanging element. It closed off a room that’s normally open to the whole house, giving the room a feeling of theater.

And speaking of theater, you could also do something like this to create impromptu theater curtains.

More fort ideas

How to Build a Simple Clip Fort

Make a Fort from a Refrigerator Box

Fort Magic, The Coolest Fort in Town

A Playhouse under the Table, Artful Parent

Handmade Hideaways, Modern Parents Messy Kids

How to Build a Great Blanket Fort, Simple Mom

And perhaps the biggest resource of all, Fort Fridays, the weekly fort roundup from All for the Boys

Vegetable-Dyed Easter Eggs

Dye for Easter Eggs

Have you ever thought about making vegetable dyed Easter eggs?

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets.

I’m trying to make a move away from synthetic food dyes and wanted to use natural, homemade dyes this year. Not only are these colors absolutely healthy for human consumption, but the process of making them is a wonderful lesson in creating art materials from scratch and can help children think critically about  how to achieve various colors colors.

As I was cutting the onions and beets I asked my daughter what colors she thought they’d make. I also asked questions like, “If I wanted to make blue dye, what might I make it with?”

She had fun making guesses based on what we had in our kitchen and garden, and also came up with her own wild suggestions such as, “let’s take the skins off the bananas to make yellow dye!”

How to Make Vegetable Dyed Easter Eggs

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets.

Supplies

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Skin from one onion, two beets, large handful of spinach, half head of red cabbage
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • Ice cream scooper
  • Rubber Bands
  • Stickers
  • Crayons
  • Parsley Sprigs
  • Cheesecloth

Make the dye

I set up four pots of dye:

Pot #1: Onion Skins

Pot #2: Beets

Pot #3: Spinach

Pot #4: Chopped Red Cabbage

Add about 3 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each pot. The vinegar helps the dye set onto the egg.

Cook the dyes for about 30 minutes and then strained the colored water into some bowls.

*Note, you could also experiment with hard-boiling your raw eggs in the dye itself. I’ve heard this works really well. 

Three Decorating Techniques

While the dye cooks and cools, this could be a good time to get your eggs ready for dipping.

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets, and ideas on how to decorate them..

1. Wrap the Eggs with Rubberbands

We wrapped some eggs with rubber bands. Fine motor skill training for my almost 3-year old!

2. Cover Eggs with Stickers

We covered eggs with spring stickers and office stickers.

3. Color the Eggs with Crayons

And we drew on eggs with crayons. Nothing too crazy. The crayon will resist the dye. White crayon would make for more drama in the end, but my 2-year old had her heart set on blue.

How to Dye Easter Eggs

Some people like to use tongs or whisks to grab their eggs, but our ice cream scooper made for a good egg scooper.

Do you see that barely green water up there? That’s what transpired from cooking our spinach…for thirty minutes! Pale green water. As you can imagine, it didn’t do much to our eggs. Next time I think we’ll try using more spinach…or use green food coloring.

Have you had any success achieving a vibrant green color with natural dyes? I’ve heard that liquid chlorophyll is the best thing to use for green, but I haven’t tried it personally.

Pale Yellow from Onions

We unwrapped the eggs to reveal the hidden images!  This pale yellow color was made by the onion skins. We’ve also made yellow dye from ground turmeric (cooked the same as above), which it works really well.

Grey from Beets

It looks brown here, but the beets made a grey-ish color. Dye seeped into the openings of the bunny sticker, revealing a blotchy silhouette that’s still quite nice. A bunch of these all over an egg would be kind of cool, or a simpler sticker would look nice (scroll down for an example).

I’ve had success making a pale pink from beets, and I’m not quite sure what happened here.

Blue from Red Cabbage

But small stickers like this little butterfly left a clear impression. Lovely.

Brilliant blue came from the red cabbage! To make this egg, we wrapped cheesecloth around parsley sprigs and then dipped it in the cabbage dye. If you have pantyhose, that could work even better.

Hole Reinforcement Stickers on Easter Eggs

I found a new life for a stack of hole-punch reinforcement stickers! Don’t you love this? The grey color came from the beets (sad, because I was hoping for pink, but still beautiful), the egg in the back is a brown egg dipped in red cabbage dye, and the yellow egg is colored by onion skin.

Before tossing the cabbage leaves out, I wrapped them around an egg and popped it in the fridge overnight. Tie-dye egg!

This is part of a collaboration with my friend Melissa’s from The Chocolate Muffin Tree. For more natural egg dying ideas, visit Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

More Egg Dying, Decorating, and Science Ideas

Three Easy Tricks for Blown Out Eggs

Egg Geodes Science Experiment

How to Make a Floating Egg

How to Walk on Raw Eggs. Really.

60 Egg Activities for Kids

Have you colored eggs with natural dye?

If you have, please share a tip, link, or photo!!

Creativity and Education Interestingness

Creativity and education interestingness from the Tinkerlab blog

Creativity and Education: A Roundup of Interestingness from Tinkerlab

It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of creativity and education resources, and since a few pieces of interestingness have crossed my desk this week, I wanted to take a minute to share these great resources with you!

I hope you enjoy them and that they give you some food for thought. And if you’ve spotted any great articles that you think I should know about, please let me know about them in a comment!

Youth Arts Month

Did you know that March is National Youth Art Month? According to the National Art Education Association, “Youth Art Month is an annual observance every March to emphasize the value of art education for all youth and to encourage support for quality school art programs.”

This post on ArtsBlog from Kristen Engebretson of Americans for the Arts has some helpful Youth Arts Month links. For anyone interested in the intersection of the arts and early childhood, later this month (March 18-22), ArtsBlog will host a Blog Salon about early childhood education, and I’ve been invited to chime in with some thoughts on the the value of process over product in the early years. More on that in a couple weeks!

youth art month

How will you celebrate Youth Arts Month? 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Sit down and make some art with your child.
  • Subscribe to School Arts Magazine. If you’re a teacher or homeschooler, this is one of the best magazines on the topic. When I was a teacher, I always looked forward to finding this in my mailbox.
  • If the arts are limited in your child’s school, can you advocate for more? Is there anything you can do to give the arts a bigger presence in your child’s learning?
  • Set up a self-serve creativity zone in your home.
  • Pin the image (above) and help spread the word that it’s Youth Art Month
  • Order a copy of Jean Van’t Hul’s inspiring and soon-to-be released book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity
  • Thank you child’s art teacher/s for their hard work and commitment toward making the arts a relevant and meaningful part of your child’s education.
  • Look at real art with your child. Here are some of my favorite tips for facilitating arts-based conversations with children: 5 Easy Steps for talking with Children about Art

 Stephen Round: Resignation Letter

Have you seen this compelling video of Stephen Round submitting his letter of resignation to the Providence, Rhode Island School District? Since he resigned in December, 2012 it’s gone viral and has been viewed over 400,000 times.

Round was a second grade teacher and resigned because he found that his school was so focused on standardized testing as a measure of student achievement that it missed the point of raising children to become lifelong learners, which is at the heart of his teaching philosophy. Stephen’s story isn’t a new one, but his heartfelt letter is worth watching if you care about how teachers can find their own unique and creative voice in a public school system that’s caught under the net of standardized testing.

My oldest child enters kindergarten this Fall and stories like this have me on edge about sending her to public school. If teachers like this are resigning, school boards and parents need to pay close attention.

What do you think?

Big C and little c Creativity

Have you heard of “Big C” and “little c” Creativity?”

There’s a fascinating study on creative and education that’s just emerging from the Learning Research Institute at California State University San Bernardino.

Nurturing the Next Van Gogh? Start With Small Steps

From the article:

“Kaufman and Beghetto suggest teachers should meet unexpectedness with curiosity. Rather than shutting down a potentially creative solution to a problem, explore and evaluate it. What seems like a tangent could actually help other students think about the problem in a different way.

They also note that part of incorporating creativity is helping students to read the situation. There’s a time and a place for a creative solution and kids need to learn when it’s appropriate to take the intellectual risk. They should also learn that there’s a cost to creativity; it takes effort, time, and resources and depending on the problem the most creative solution may not make sense.”

Self-Doubt Kills Creativity

This is an interesting read for any of us grown-ups who consider ourselves creative, but find that self-doubt holds us back from pursuing creative ideas. And it’s also a reminder of how important it is to encourage a child’s creative ideas without judgement.

This article from Psych Central is full of ten actionable strategies for pulling yourself out of a self-doubt funk: 10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s Number 1 Crusher

From the article:

“Self-doubt can persuade us to stop creating or keep us from sending our work out into the world. It can be so influential that it colors how we see ourselves, ensuring we don’t pick up a pen, paintbrush, camera or other tool for decades.”

 Note: There may be affiliate links in this article, but I only share links to resources that I love and/or think you’ll find useful.

Homemade {Easy, Low-cost} Light Table

Easy low cost homemade light box

My 2-year old came down with a fever last week and we’ve been more or less house-bound. It’s no fun at all, but it’s made me pretty resourceful around the house. One big win was pulling out our homemade light table.

My 4-year old, who used to love this box, seems to have grown out of it (sniff — maybe it’s a phase?), but my 2-year old was right at home sorting and designing compositions.

Easy Low Cost Homemade Light Table

I’m a fan of things that light up. Light Tables are wonderful for exploring the play of light, shadow, color, and transparency. Their unique nature can add a magical element to child’s play and encourage curiosity, exploration, and problem-solving.

If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember the overhead projector that we salvaged for just $5 from Stanford’s Re-Use Department or the DIY Light Table that we filled with salt and water beads.

Build a Light Table

I wanted to include a light box tutorial in my forthcoming book and recognized that our light box wouldn’t be easy for other parents or caregivers to replicate, so I started tinkering. Once I wrapped my head around this project, it couldn’t have been simpler.

Like painfully simple! Wait ’til you see.

If you don’t already have one of these, you’ll wonder why not.

Rubbermaid Light Box with Christmas Lights

Light Box Materials

  • Under-the-bed style clear storage box. Ours is made by Rubbermaid. It’s 6″ x 17″ x 28″ , the lid is clear, and it has has a latching lid. I found ours at either Target or Ace Hardware, and here’s a link to what appears to be the same box via Amazon: Rubbermaid Storage Box. I’ve also spotted really nice boxes at IKEA, which may be worth hunting down.
  • White Tissue Paper (the kind you wrap gifts with), wax paper, or tracing paper. My preference is white tissue paper. Stay clear of parchment paper as it’s impossible to tape it to anything.
  • Clear Tape
  • String of holiday lights
  • Extension cord: optional

Directions

  1. Tissue Paper: Line the inside of the lid with tissue paper and tape it in place. Use clear tape so that the tape doesn’t show. 
  2. Holiday Lights: Spread a string of holiday lights around the inside of your box. The cord will dangle out. We were able to close our box on the cord, but this isn’t necessary.
  3. Play! Place a few bowls of transparent manipulative materials near the light box and invite your child to create.
  4. Seed the project: My kids are most responsive to this invitation if I seed the table with a few ideas. I set all of the materials out as you see in the photo above. My 2-year old saw this and added a red circle in the middle of one of the “flowers.” Then she decided to build a whole series of flowers with my assistance (below).

Homemade Light Box

Design Materials that we use

Light Box manipulatives

More cool design materials that you might enjoy

Store-bought Light Box Options

If making your own light box doesn’t appeal to you, there’s an enormous selection of store-bought options to choose from. We also have this sweet little 5″ x 7″ Gagne Light Panel that I found at a local art store. It doesn’t have the big-impact, scale-wise, as our homemade box, but it’s not too expensive, portable, and I love it for tracing projects (mama makes art too!).

plug in light table

Blog Love

I couldn’t have written this post without mentioning that as I was working on this project, my friend Anna at The Imagination Tree posted her own DIY Light Box for Sensory Play. Our projects are nearly identical, and this isn’t the first time this has happened! Click on the links to see how Anna made her sensory light box.

Two years ago we both posted the same project, on the same day. Here’s a peak: If you have a toddler, you might also enjoy my Colander Sculpture and Anna’s Discovery Box Pipe Cleaners. The Imagination Tree is one of my favorite blogs. If you’re a hands-on parent I’m sure you’ll love it too, so do check it out if it’s not already on your radar.